Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Heather David || Passion Among the Decay || Mid-Century by the Bay

San Jose Apartment Building at night
I first met Heather David while perusing the world wide web looking for artistic inspiration for the first Booty Chesterfield album, Sellin’ Cookies. I wanted to have something local. Being a fan of mid-century architecture and advertising, I googled (via images) the Western Motel on El Camino. Up pops a beautifully taken picture of the sign half lit as dusk begins to claim the day. Following the picture I came upon the modest site SV Modern. Someone was documenting all the untold beauty of Silicon Valley’s past? On the spot I wrote this person an email passionately thanking them for documenting our past. And if you know Heather, I received an even-more-impassioned email back thanking me for having interest in something close to her heart as well as an invite to lunch at the former Bob’s Big Boy (now flames) on Winchester Blvd. I had to meet this person.

Heather is an intense individual who knows what she likes and the things she likes are becoming rarer and rarer. During that first lunch at the Flames and she went on about local mid-century architects & designers most who's names I had never heard.  I had always considered myself “educated” in the realm of mid-century design. I was dead wrong, especially when it came to local knowledge. “Geez, Heather, you should write a book.” Her retort, “I am.”

After several years of research and a big chunk of her retirement savings spun into hardcopy, she self-released, Mid-Century by the Bay. This is the reference book for Bay Area mid-century. It  goes beyond just "cool" pictures.  The author has done her homework and tells a tale of mass growth, prosperity & expansion during this Bay Area time period.  I was privileged enough to see several drafts of the book while she was in the process. Let me tell you, when I received my hardback copy I was literally blown away by the final results. Heather is very particular. Initially she struggled getting her vision to conform to a hard copy. Pushing her dream along of publishing an undocumented history of Mid-Century Design she has fully achieved success with this book. I believe this book is going to a wonderful reference guide for the future bay area architects whom have yet to become established.  And, no doubt, this book will be sitting on the shelves of many future designers too.

One of the key ingredients in this book is the work of Arnold Del Carlo. Mr. Del Carlo was a San Jose based professional commercial photographer for nearly 40 years. And as Heather states it, “who successfully captured the evolution of the Santa Clara Valley from the ‘Valley of Hearts Delight’ to ‘Silicon Valley’.” There is an even better story behind this commercial lens. He basically was an “unknown” in the eyes of the preservationists of the Bay Area. His eye-catching visuals of shopping center grand openings and new bowling alleys sat in a box in his garage for 30+ years collecting dust. He just happened to have the luck of having Heather move into his neighborhood. After a chance discovery of his vintage portfolio, she went nuts with determination to make sure that the world had a chance to see this man’s work.  Mid-Century by the Bay is besieged with beautiful, full page Del Carlo images. These are my personal favorites. An important footnote that in this process Heather had an integral part in making sure these photos were preserved. The Sourisseau Academy at SJSU acquired the entire portfolio. 
GEM Gas Station San Jose Del Carlo
Even though this book is about Bay Area architecture & design in the mid-century, it is south bay centric.  This is in part due to the massive transformation of growth through out the valley making it become the technology center of the world.  If you think that Silicon Valley started with the micro chip, semiconductor, and internet I encourage you to find out a little bit more about the roots behind this developing valley and never forget the past. In regards to cutting edge architecture and design for the times, Heather David’s book is a really good starting point.

For more information about the book, go here:

And if you want more, she has a wonderful Flickr website!
Oasis Motel San Francisco, CA

First National Bank Sunnyvale

Motel Capri Santa Clara

Hyatt Cinema Burlingame side view

Mid-Century by the Bay

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